January 15th – A View of the City

Deep in Jutêgarde Parish in the east, beneath the Trioli Hill, is a block of flats named after the Escotolate philosopher, Aldixous Hiyke. It is tall, red brick construction, with a strange roof that looks like a large white conical hat, giving it the appearance of an odd, giant mushroom. The ‘brim’ reaches out well beyond the building’s foundations, and this, along with the diramenn trees that grow around it, mean that the basement rooms are always dark and damp, despite having skylights built in.

In the basement room on the north side lives a young woman, known to her neighbours as Ischi. She is thought to be young primarily because of her mannerisms and voice; the way in which she moves; yet rarely has anyone seen her face from behind the beautiful patterned scarves she wears. They don’t see much of her, as she spends most days holed-up in her rooms, but today she opens those rooms up, so that they may have a view of the City.

Whilst her closest neighbours are invited inside for tall glasses of mushroom tea and sweet dumplings, the only way for other visitors to get a glimpse of the City is for them to look through the small skylight window outside, which today will be left uncovered. What they see through that tiny window, is something quite remarkable: a perfect model of Buentoille, all exactly to scale.

Everything is there: the tall spires of Ranaclois Hill; the tangle of roofs that is the Warrens; the open parks, like bald patches on a scalp; the Rambla, the squares, the rippling roofs of Guilgamot district; the Parliament building; the strange, alien architecture of The Pohlatiné Mission; the sucking marshes on the outskirts; the dock and shimmering sea. Glorious Buentoille.

Tiny trams make their way through the winding streets, yet those hunched over the tiny window will swear on their mother’s life that they see further movement within; tiny people going about their tiny lives, unaware of these giant eyes above them. Local children say that Ischi is a witch, that she changes things in the model and the City changes in response, that if you were to trip and fall into it then earthquakes would crush whole sections of Buentoille.

In a nearby pub, the Quilted Cat, an old man called Ulfin will tell anyone who buys him a drink the story of a young boy who looked in through that basement window and saw another, smaller boy looking in through another, smaller window.


Other festivals happening today:

  • The Hotel Trinim Hide and Seek Festival
  • Jilted Lover Commiseration Day

January 14th – The First Day of A Dreamlike Notion

In 1999 famous artist and games designer Jorald Hendersonne invented the first and most exciting ARG (alternative reality game) of Buentoilliçan society. Known to most simply as ‘The Game’, it’s real name is A Dreamlike Notion. Today the ARG will begin with a selection ceremony and accompanying ARG promotional festival.

The theme of The Game changes every year, and this year’s theme is necessarily unknown, but previous years have involved (amongst other things) secret societies who communicate through odd lines in poems published many years before, cuttlefish-worshipping cults plotting the end of the world, groups of spies looking to take down shadowy political groups, aliens who are interested only in architecture, and conjunctions of monstrous spheres of reality where vampires build statues from coagulated blood that reveal the essential truths of reality.

Something in the region of 15000 people will turn up to the selection ceremony, but only ten people will be selected as participants in the ARG. A far larger group (usually something in the region of three hundred people) will be selected to work as actors in the ARG, or in other similar roles. Those selected to participate as ‘players’ will never receive any official acknowledgement of this fact, but for those lucky few very strange things will start to happen over the coming months. The ceremony itself consists of several protracted interviews with each attendee, covering issues as diverse as geology, world politics and colour preference. This means that the festival can often span a number of days.

The festival will take place this year in the Old Courthouse, with the lobby and lower floors being given over to other ARG games companies, collaborations and cooperatives. An estimated five hundred of these organisations will hope to attract attention from the majority of revellers who will not be selected for A Dreamlike Notion. Food sellers have taken inspiration from previous instances of The Game, selling squid gibbets, blood cakes, ‘nano bot’ burgers, essence of The Hand smoothies and various other concoctions.

The game usually begins with small intrusions into the players’ lives; they might receive strange post containing special computer software loaded onto disks, hear the same innocuous words over and again from strangers’ mouths, or markings in the pavement that have been there for years might begin suddenly to hold additional meaning. In one instance a player’s family, friends and co-workers slowly began to disappear, each speaking nonsensically about a different type of tea before they left.

Since the death of Annis Kaipheri in 2007, A Dreamlike Notion has been overseen by the Council for Civil Protection.


Other festivals happening today:

  • Technology Advocacy Day

January 13th – The Winter Harvest

The Winter Harvest is often referred to by a number of other names, including the Festival of Sheets, the Festival of Death’s Due, and Death’s Washing Day. On this day, many Buentoillitants will gather in and around the City’s graveyards, where white sheets will be hung between posts amongst the graves. The sheets are soaked in a clear embalming oil for a week before the festival begins, in barrels or casks which are stored in mausoleums or in lychgates. Festival goers will paint their faces white and wear black clothes.

Revellers welcome the twilight hour with hymnodic chanting and the ringing of special bells, of a design similar to that which Death is thought to ring as it takes life. They will then take turns to walk through the oil-laden sheets, a bell ringing each time a person passes through. When all those willing to participate have ‘passed’, the sheets are then burned, and the participants stand around the fire, holding hands in silence.

The practice is thought to originate from the late 1670s, when a persistent seasonal disease (possibly a virulent strain of flu) killed hundreds of Buentoillitants at this time of year. The act of ‘passing through’ the veil is supposed to be symbolic of death, and it was thought that by enacting the ritual it might be possible to trick Death into thinking you were already dead for some time. The timing of the festival initially changed with perceived need, but the number thirteen’s association with unluckiness and death may be why the modern festival is performed on this particular day.

Fifteen people are known to have actually died during the festival, most from heart-related conditions, though one murder did occur in 1843. The earliest known mention of the festival is in Lycksette’s Travelles (1686), wherein the eponymous author describes witnessing the festival:

‘The localles here are exseptionalle scared of the coufing horour, a punyshment from God for thyr wyked ways. Theyr sheets they do drayp among theyr dede, and there they walke throu them, like spiryts asending to hevyn. Tis an unnervyng spektakle, on I do knott wysh to see agen. The sheets dyd move as yf blowyn by some spektrall otheworldlye bryse, out of tyme with that whych I dyd feyl on myne fase.’


Other festivals happening today:

  • Coffee Shack Sack Race
  • Computer Science for Everyone
  • Buentoille Photographic Society Great Gallery Reveal

January 12th – Buentoilliçan Lunar New Year

In Buentoille, Lunar New Year is of equal importance to the calendar New Year, and tonight there will be much merriment. Lunar New Year is primarily celebrated in the east of the city, but in recent years, after the terrible events of Catrosondia Day, many western Buentoillitants have chosen to postpone their New Year’s Eve celebrations until today.

The festival is celebrated in much the same way as it would have been by the eastern Buentoillitants’ Escotolate ancestors; large gangs of drummers and traditional korri horn players dance through the streets, making as much noise as possible in an attempt to ward away bad luck and evil spirits in the coming year. These celebrations commence as soon as the moon begins to rise, as observed from the top of the Tower of Saint Fastling, the highest structure in the City, atop Ranaclois hill. As soon as the crest of the first full moon of the year is sighted, fireworks cascade from the tower as a signal to all awaiting revellers.

Many breweries in the City choose today to open their casks of hutsting, a strong, clear liquor distilled from bitter beets, and a traditional delicacy of the ancient Escotolatian tribes-people. More alcohol is consumed today than on any other day of the year, and the emergency services have many extra crews on hand as a result.

Many homes in the eastern districts will also prepare huge feasts of winter vegetables (most of the Escotolatian tribes were vegetarian or vegan, and this preference has been passed down through the generations), which are often eaten al-fresco beside large bonfires in the piazzas and parks, in full view of the full moon. Here traditional dances are performed, involving bright costumes and large papier-mâché moons on sticks, lit from within.

Recent research has indicated that the loud noises and lights of the festival may have been originally an attempt to ward away the packs of Eastern White Wolf, which are particularly bold on this evening. This may explain why the first full moon of the year is often referred to as the ‘Wolf Moon’ by many eastern residents of the City. Accordingly, any visitors who are planning on travelling beyond the bounds of the City tonight are strongly advised to take adequate precautions, including a lupine warding whistle.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Opening of our Holy Mother
  • Hugenot District Cat Sanctuary Open Day
  • One Hundred Prayers for the Dead

January 11th – Buentoilliçan Literacy Day

Despite the near 100% literacy rates in Buentoille, the City’s residents still choose to celebrate this outdated festival, initially created by a conglomeration of unions (primarily the Union of Radical Firepersons and the Buentoilliçan Association of Haberdashery and Tailor’s Guilds) in an attempt to improve the lives of their workers.

The festival would have originally been a week long; the unions would hire out large civic buildings where they would teach their workers the basics of literacy, enabling them to enjoy and educate themselves. These services were widely enjoyed by a wide variety of residents. The festival was also looked at as an opportunity to increase the political consciousness of the Buentoillitant proletariat, but unfortunately the modern festival has all-but lost these connotations.

In its modern form the festival has morphed into a commercial event for book companies, especially those who publish children’s literature. Literature is a large force in the culture of Buentoille, and parents are anxious to ensure that their children are able to engage with it. A number of new releases and sales will happen today, and will be widely shared by the City’s media.

One of the few public gatherings today is a result of the idiosyncratic way in which Buentoilliçan schools test literacy; each child must read Interstitial Realities in one sitting from cover to cover. This is tested en masse today, as a kind of passing out ceremony from the first term of school. Buentoillitants start school proper usually long after they have learned to write, and the practice is treated as a benign (if often frustrating) archaic tradition, worthy of upholding to strengthen Buentoilliçan culture as a whole. As such, the seminal poetry collection by A.E. Millicent is much maligned and lauded in popular culture, and is often invoked as a shorthand for the extensive Buentoilliçan literary canon.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Proctor Dandridge Memorial Spelling Bee
  • Reinterpret the Dialectic!
  • Barry Beveridge’s Big Birthday Bash

January 10th – The Eating of the Seeds

For the Most Holy Church of the Magnificent Sunflower, today is one of the most anticipated days in the calendar. Acolytes will have spent many days preparing magnificent-sunflower-based foods, including breads, spreads, snacks and rhine (a curious type of beer made from magnificent sunflower meal – the leftover by-product from oil production), which will be consumed today, in the main hall of their church.

However, the consumption of these foods is ancillary to the main event; the tasting of last years’ harvest. The kernels are stored in complete darkness since the harvesting in late August, and are guaranteed to have reached full maturity by January 10th, regardless of the exact day they were harvested. Grandmaster Sun will be the first to taste the previous year’s bounty, and, along with the other members of the First Seed, he will decide the level of vintage and esteem the harvest should receive. Amongst other things, this will decide whether any of the magnificent sunflower seeds are replanted in the late spring.

The magnificent sunflower is a particular variety of sunflower which is renowned for its mild hallucinogenic properties, and reputed numerous health benefits. Members of the Church report visions of angels dressed only in sunflower petals, of animated kernels, and typically an enormous sense of well-being and enlightenment. It is also claimed that a particular chemical in the seed enables humans to ‘perceive our glorious and invisible masters, the Heliophene, who walk amongst us.’ Unfortunately, access to the seeds is tightly controlled by the Church, and they have not permitted access for scientific testing to verify these claims.

The magnificent sunflower is a smallish flower, compared to its commercial cousins, and would not be particularly easily distinguishable from many wild varieties, except for the fact that the head tends not to follow the sun, but instead roves around in seemingly random directions. According to the Church, the flowers move in response to the presence of nearby Heliophenes.

According to Grandmaster Sun (birth name Indorus Finch), he found the dried seeds in an ancient, derelict temple, whilst on an expedition to the Summer Isles. There he apparently also found a number of religious texts which he subsequently translated, and which formed the foundation for the Most Holy Church of the Magnificent Sunflower. Whilst there is evidence that Sun travelled to the archipelago in the early 60s, the Grandmaster has been unwilling to produce these documents for scholarly study, citing their fragility. Critics of the Church point out that the Grandmaster’s visit there was as part of his former employment at Biojohnsoncorp as an expeditionary geneticist, and allege that he engineered the variety of sunflower in their labs. It is important to remember that this is unproven speculation, and critics have yet to produce any evidence that Grandmaster Sun is lying.


Other festivals happening today:

  • Grammar Is Important Festival
  • The Festival of Ark Remembrance

 

January 9th – The Festival of Distant Light

The Festival of Distant Light was founded in 1986 as a response to the ever-increasing levels of light pollution in Buentoille. Various ideas for the festival’s form were put forward at the Council of Logistics’ AGM. The minutes from the meeting also note a sit-in protest by the Guild of Tallow and Wax Merchants (the Guild’s modern membership encompasses sellers of all forms of lighting appliance, but they have kept the name for tradition’s sake), who wished to register their discontent with the entire discussion.

Out of the thirty proposals – ranging from bussing the City’s children out to the countryside once a month, to banning all electric lights – the winning solution was to have one night a year when no man-made lighting would be permitted in the City. This serendipitously coincided with the Union of Lamplighters’ new demands for their own yearly day of rest.

The blackout is enforced by a special group (The Brigade of Darkness) set up for the purpose, voted in at the AGM every year. There are usually attempts to sabotage the festival by members of the Cult of the Eternal Flame, who feel that their religious rights are being trampled upon, especially as the Eternal Flame itself was (they believe) made by divine, rather than human, hands. Due to a number of violent scuffles between the Brigade and cultists, special consideration has been made for them in the form of blackout blinds. However, there are still attempts to mar the festival, including the 1999 burning of the ancient Sien Pyre (a monument to the last minute pardoning of Lady de Sien, who had been accused of witchcraft in 1441). Every year the Cult of the Eternal Flame will also unsuccessfully attempt to have their candidate elected to the Brigade of Darkness.

Deckchairs and blankets are placed about the City by the Brigade, for the maximum enjoyment of the stars. Extensive cloud seeding occurs before the festival to increase the chances of clear skies, but unfortunately it is not always successful. Assuming that conditions are right, the City’s five parks are usually bustling with people from five onwards; Revolution Park is generally considered the best spot, as the lake provides a beautiful mirror to the stars. A great amount of unlicensed mulled wine stands tend to pop up in the parks tonight, and violinists play plaintive melodies to the crowds.

Visitors to the City should bear in mind that all non-foot traffic (besides emergency vehicles) is prohibited tonight.


Other festivals happening today:

  • Borscht Appreciation Day
  • Terry’s Funk Fiasco
  • The Cult of the Eternal Flame’s Day of Discontent

January 8th – The Union of Quilters and Allied Workers Display Day

The Union of Quilters and Allied Workers (UQAW) is the oldest surviving union in Buentoille, and almost every Buentoillitant family contains at least one member. However, the union has moved well beyond its initial purpose of uniting quilt workers and working for improvements in their conditions and pay.

In the late sixteenth century the quilting industry went from being a huge part of the Buentoilliçan economy to being essentially worthless. The largest purchasers of Buentoilliçan quilts had been the nearby cities of Litancha, Catrosondia and Helmuud’s Hill, but with the introduction of the Seven Cities Trading Company and the resulting opening of the Tibizian Straits, this trade all but dried up. Around thirty percent of Buentoillitants were employed in the quilting industries at the time, so the union had to take drastic action.

The internal market for quilts at the time was weak, as the skills were so widespread, but the artistic value of the industry was recognised by the parliament of the time, especially as it made use of otherwise-worthless scraps from the tailoring and haberdashery industries. Under pressure from the union, Parliament passed the 1589 Quilt Workers Relief Act, wherein every member of UQAW was guaranteed a small weekly wage, as long as they spent the entire year producing under seven individual works of exquisite artistic quality. This process was initially overseen by the odious Quilting Standards Officers (called ‘Snifters’ by the quilters, due to their frustrating propensity to turn up their snotty middle-class noses at the product of the quilters’ labour), but after several mysterious disappearances no volunteers could be found, and this task was taken up by UQAW appointees.

Eventually, as other industries filled the gap left by the quilting industries’ departure, the monthly stipend provided by parliament was not increased with inflation, and therefore the time requirements to be a member of UQAW decreased with it. Eventually, this led to the current state of affairs, where the (now primarily ceremonial) stipend is paid to all union members today, on Display Day, where almost every household hangs out their creations for all the City to see. Quilting has now achieved the status of high art in Buentoilliçan society, and the spectacle is quite something to behold.

Whilst the galleries will do their part in displaying a number of well-known quilt artists, there is no match for the spectacle available for free at The Warrens on the south side, where walls, windows, washing lines and walkways are sure to be thronging with quilts, both traditional and highly innovative in style.


Other festivals happening today:

  • James de Barth’s Festival of True High Culture
  • The Maze Is Open
  • Buentoilliçan Internationalist Recognition Day
  • Buentoilliçan Film Festival

January 7th – King Dunmonii’s Grand Excursion

There is a large volume of folklore surrounding the genesis of this festival, the central story of which being variously called ‘The King and the Faerie’, ‘Dunmonii’s Fruit’, and many other variations upon that theme. Whilst the scholars from Benetek and de Geers have a long-running argument over whether the Ethlebert or Homfrey version of the story came first, both have the same essential story at their heart:

King Dunmonii (one of the more tyrannical Buentoilliçan kings in his early reign, Dunmonii converted to the Chastise Church toward the end of his life, repenting his sins), was visited by a faerie in his bed chamber, early in the morning of the Seventh of January. It gave the King two small red berries, saying ‘One you shall eat and one you must bury, before the day is out, or a great trouble shall befall you.’ The King was a gluttonous and stubborn man; he ate the first berry, and then, finding it to be extremely delicious he proclaimed ‘I do not believe in faeries!’ and ate the second as well.

Later that day, the King went out hunting in the woods to the east of the City. There he was beset upon by a group of bandits and died in the snow along with his entourage. In the following days a great blizzard raged, and the Kings body was not found for many weeks. By the time the snows had melted, a small tree was found growing out of his stomach, from which his body could not be dislodged. The next year the whole city set out to honour his passing at the very same tree, and saw that it was covered in hundreds of the small red berries, like drops of blood. Each person took two berries, eating one and planting another before the day was out.

The modern festival proceeds from this myth. Today, hundreds of people will leave the City through The Traitor’s Gate and walk out into the countryside on a long and beautiful route to what is now called Dunmonii Wood, after the amount of Dunmonii trees therein. The route is littered with these trees, and from them each walker takes two berries, one which they eat there and then, and one which they bury. It is considered bad luck to take any more than this, but many do nonetheless, as the berries are exceptionally tasty.

The Dunmonii tree is a very short-lived tree, surviving only a few years before it withers and dies, yet it’s growth is prodigious, with many recorded specimens being well over ten foot tall, and stout as an ancient oak. As a result the tree has been the subject of sustained scientific attention for many years. The berries seem to appear overnight, and only last for one day; after this they turn brown, drop from the tree and become highly toxic. No successful methods of preservation have yet been found.


Other festivals happening today:

  • Regent June’s Dunmonii Pie Eating Competition
  • Flautists’ Circle Party Day

January 6th – Helen Obravey’s Day

Helen Obravey was a visionary musician and philosopher, or as she liked to describe herself, a ‘secular priestess’, who was born 1856 and died 1923.

Undoubtedly her most famous work to this date is ‘When the Birds Return’, a beautiful choral piece, originally accompanied by piano. It was commissioned by the Council of Logistics as the Buentoilliçan Anthem, in the first year after the revolution. According to Obravey it describes the feelings she had as the Gablelarks finally returned to their roosts, after they had fled the noise of fighting during the civil war.

Yet Obravey was a national icon well into monarchic times, first rising to fame with ‘Under the Bakery’s Eaves, Love Softly Grows’. This extract from an article in the Gentleman’s Herald gives us some insight into how the song was received:

All this week the most fantastic spectacles have been occurring on the streets of this great City. I hear the same beautiful song over and again, played by street buskers and hummed by washer women. It floats through school windows, it fills the air like a beautiful scent, I have never been so happy in all my life. Grown men weep openly in the streets, crying babies stop and gurgle, enthralled. The sourest of old couples are once again lost in each other’s eyes. Truly, Miss Obravey is an angel in disguise.’

As well as her immense musical contributions, Obravey wrote a number of columns in many different newspapers under various pseudonyms. In these she posited various political and philosophical theories, many of which were in opposition to each other. More than once she captivated the nation’s attention by staging a heated argument across the papers in this way. When interviewed about this, shortly before her death, she said that it was her personal interpretation of dialectal immaterialism.

Her most famous article, the one which has shaped the way in which Buentoillitants today celebrate her legacy, was an interview with herself. A pseudonym, Katie Jynn, asked Obravey how she would like people to remember her, when she was gone? ‘I would like them to sit out in the streets for a day, warmed by huge bonfires. I would like them to share home-made food, to laugh, and to play my music throughout,’ was the reply. She was found dead by her own hand, the day after the article was published.


Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Saint Isiir’s Left Hand